WaterSense

Shower Yourself with Savings

by Tom Damm

banner_showerbetter-2015A “Navy shower” is quite efficient.  Get wet, turn off the water, lather up, rinse off and get out.  All done in a few minutes.

My first experience with such a shower was in a trailer near New Orleans during EPA’s response to Hurricane Katrina.  I learned how to get clean in a hurry when the scarce hot water available in our compound ran out by the time I showered each morning.

I’ve since taken more comfortable, but similarly speedy showers at home.  It makes sense since EPA estimates that shortening your shower by even one minute can save 550 gallons of water per year.

Showering is one of the leading ways we use water in the home, accounting for nearly 17 percent of residential indoor water use.

The City of Charlottesville, Virginia – a two-time EPA WaterSense national award winner for its water saving promotions – challenges its residents to take a five-minute shower, offering a free timer and suggesting they create a five-minute playlist and use a 2-in-1 shampoo-conditioner combination.

But one of the main suggestions from EPA and Charlottesville to save water, energy and money is to replace your old showerhead with a WaterSense labeled model.  Charlottesville offers them at no cost to its residents.

In just one year, a WaterSense showerhead can save the average family nearly 3,000 gallons of water and save enough electricity to power their home for 13 days.  That’s a savings of more than $70 in energy and water costs.

October has been designated Shower Better Month by EPA’s WaterSense program.  Here’s a link for more ways to save water throughout your home – and to avoid that knock on the door to speed it up in the shower.

 

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Decisions, Decisions

by Magdalene Cunningham

Toilet Decision editedThis summer, my husband and I are remodeling our bathrooms and kitchen and it’s involved a lot of choices. Toilets, for instance.

I just wanted new toilets to go with my two new bathrooms; little did I know I needed to make several decisions.  Do I want chair height or lower which is better for small children?  Do I want a rounded or elongated seat?  Do I want a regular flushing system or one of the newer engineered varieties such as the push 1 or push 2?

One decision was simple.  Since I work for EPA, I‘m familiar with the benefits of buying a high-efficiency WaterSense product, and it helped me work my way through toilet row at our big home improvement store.

One of the things I’ve learned is that toilets account for nearly 30 percent of an average home’s indoor water consumption and that older, inefficient, toilets use as much as 6 gallons per flush which can be a major source of wasted water in many homes. WaterSense-labeled models can reduce water used for toilets by 20 to 60 percent – saving nearly 13,000 gallons of water and $110 every year.

After I selected my WaterSense toilets, my husband had the fun job of getting two of these new-fangled toilets onto the cart and wheeled to the checkout cashier.  We were very lucky that the ones I picked happened to be stored on the floor and not an upper shelf.  The last time we bought toilets (15 years ago when we bought the house), each toilet came in two boxes: one for the tank and one for the seat part.  Unfortunately for my husband’s back, toilets now come already assembled in one very heavy, very large box.

If someone had thought to videotape our attempts at getting those boxes into what I used to think of as our “mid-sized” car, we’d win a prize on Funniest Home Videos.  He actually did a “Rocky” pose when the second one fit into the back seat.  After installing and using the WaterSense toilets, they work just the same as our old ones, just a lot faster and with a lot less water.

Our next trip: a new energy efficient refrigerator with water and crushed ice available on the outside – at least that can be delivered.

 

About the Author: Maggy started with EPA in 1987 and has worked in the Water Protection Division as the Region 3 Clean Water State Revolving Fund Coordinator for the past 17 years.  After 23 years of marriage, Maggy is happy to have survived this current and all previous home improvement projects.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Celebrating 10 Years of WaterSense

By Joel Beauvais

Did you know that two-thirds of the continental U.S. has experienced drought in the last few years? It has left many utilities grappling with water scarcity and the costs of finding new water resources and treatment.

This makes conserving water is more important now than ever.

This month we mark the 10th anniversary of EPA’s WaterSense program, which has helped save more than 1.5 trillion gallons of water and $32.6 billion on American utility bills.

How did we do this? Through the power of partnerships the WaterSense program has transformed the marketplace for products that save water, saved Americans’ money, and protected the environment. WaterSense has partnered with more than 1,700 manufacturers, retailers and distributors, water and energy utilities, state and local government, non-profit and trade organizations, irrigation training organizations, and home builders.

Today, thanks to working with industry and other partners, American families and businesses can buy WaterSense-labeled products that use at least 20 percent less water and are independently certified to perform as well or better than standard models. In fact, Americans can choose from more than 16,000 available models of WaterSense-labeled products for bathrooms, commercial kitchens and irrigation systems.

Already, more than 700 families around the country have cut their energy and water bills by up to $600 because they live in WaterSense-labeled new homes that can save about 50,000 gallons of water every year, compared to a typical home. Homeowners and businesses can hire any of the 2,200 WaterSense certified irrigation professionals to help design, install, and maintain an irrigation system that delivers a healthy landscape while minimizing waste.

Last week I had the opportunity to visit a product design laboratory of one of our valued WaterSense partners, Kohler Company. Kohler has been a partner since 2007, offering more than 600 models of WaterSense labeled products and becoming an eight time WaterSense award winner. Kohler, like many of our partners, has brought leading-edge innovation to U.S. customers by designing and testing new toilets, faucets, shower heads, and more for efficiency and performance. It was great to talk with Kohler’s sustainability and design team about what has made the partnership work and to hear their thoughts for the future.

I’m proud that the WaterSense label has become an international symbol that consumers and businesses can rely on for superior performing water-efficiency products. We couldn’t have accomplished our successes without the strong partnership we have built with our network of partners representing all sectors of the economy. Working hand-in-hand with these partners helps this nation protect our water supply and meet the challenges of climate change.

I encourage you to join a Twitter Chat we are hosting tomorrow at 1 p.m. to celebrate the anniversary and answer questions about how to save water this summer. To join the conversation, follow @EPAWater on Twitter use the #WaterSense in your messages during the chat.

Learn more about WaterSense and actions you can take to save water at: www.epa.gov/watersense.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Water you up to for Earth Day?

by Jennie Saxe

Recipients of $2.4 million in 2014 and 2015 Stormwater Stewardship Grants, with representatives from EPA, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and Prince George’s Co. (MD) Department of the Environment.

Recipients of $2.4 million in 2014 and 2015 Stormwater Stewardship Grants, with representatives from EPA, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and Prince George’s Co. (MD) Department of the Environment.

For anyone who is passionate about environmental protection, Earth Day is like the Super Bowl and the Final Four combined. This year is no exception: all month long, staff from EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Office have been out across the region talking with adults and children about the importance of environmental protection and sharing ways everyone can be part of a cleaner, greener future.

The choices you make every day, in and around your home, can make a difference. Maybe you’re interested in water conservation with WaterSense products or rainwater harvesting. Or possibly energy and money savings through the Energy Star program. Or perhaps you’ve heard of the Safer Choice-labeled products that are safer for waterways and your family.

This year, EPA is focusing attention on reducing food waste, and has made food recovery the theme for Earth Day 2016. EPA estimates that more food reaches landfills than any other single type of trash. Since so much went into producing that food – water, energy, fertilizer, transportation – consider purchasing only what you need, donating the food, or composting scraps. This handy guide can help you sustainably manage food in your home and your community. Sustainable food management has benefits beyond waste reduction and helping communities – these approaches help preserve water resources, too.

EPA has been sharing this information, and more, at local Earth Day events and schools throughout April. And we’re not done yet! On April 22, 2016, stop by the EPA tables at EarthFest on the Temple University Ambler Campus, outside of the EPA offices in Philadelphia, at Delaware State University’s Earth Day event, in Wilmington at the city’s Earth and Arbor Day festivities, or at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

If you miss the in-person Earth Day celebrations, you can join virtually by browsing EPA’s website to learn more about making Earth Day Every Day. Inspire family and friends with these environmental quotes. Check out a video on actions you can take to make a difference. Or check out EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Facebook page or Twitter account to stay connected all year long!

 

About the author: Dr. Jennie Saxe joined EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region in 2003 and works in the Water Protection Division on sustainability programs.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Be a Leak Detective for Fix a Leak Week

by Kimberly Scharl

2016 Fix a leak weekDid you know that easy-to-fix water leaks account for more than 1 trillion gallons of water wasted each year in US homes?  And every year, the average household leaks more than enough water to fill a school bus. These leaks not only waste a precious resource, but they could also be costing you an extra 10% on your water bill each month.

Good news! Fixing these leaks can be easy and inexpensive.  EPA’s WaterSense program encourages everyone to be a leak detective and “chase down” plumbing leaks during the 8th annual Fix a Leak Week. Start by gathering clues that will help you detect leaks in your home:

  • Check your utility bill – Look at your bill from January or February.  If a family of four exceeds water use of 12,000 gallons during a winter month, it’s likely there is a leak.  You can also examine your water bill for unexplained spikes from month to month.
  • Read your water meter – Find your water meter and remove the lid.  Take a reading during a period no water is being used, then take another reading in 2 hours.  If the second reading is not the same as the first, you probably have a leak.
  • Take a toilet test – Put a few drops of food coloring into the toilet tank and let it sit for 10 minutes.  If color shows up in the bowl, you have a leak that can probably be repaired with a new toilet flapper.  Make sure to flush after the test to avoid staining.

A good leak detective knows that leaks can be hiding in other places, too. Here are a few places you might want to investigate:

  • In the bathtub – Turn on the tub and divert the water to the showerhead.  If there is still a lot of water coming from the tub, your tub spout diverter may need to be replaced.
  • Under the sink – Check for pooling water under pipes and rust around joints.
  • Around the water heater – Check beneath the tank for pooling water, rust, or other signs of leakage. 
  • At the hose outside – If there are stray sprays, check the hose connection to the spigot, or try replacing the hose washer.

When replacing fixtures, remember to look for the WaterSense label.  WaterSense labeled products are independently certified to use at least 20 percent less water and perform as well or better than standard models.

Celebrate Fix a Leak Week by chasing down leaks in your own home. Leak detectives can tweet out the news of leak repairs using #Ifixleaks.

 

About the Author: Kimberly Scharl joined EPA in 2010, after moving to the mid-Atlantic region from Mississippi. She is a financial analyst and project officer in the Office of Infrastructure and Assistance, and is the regional liaison for the WaterSense Program. Kim enjoys bowling and spending time with her family.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Water with your meal?

By Jennie Saxe

This time of year, you might find me sampling the last of our Valentine’s Day chocolates, or cooking up a hearty stew – enough to ensure there will be leftovers for my busy family. In past blogs, we’ve written about the water footprint of our food, and ways that sustainable food management protects water resources. This got me thinking: how much water goes into producing some of my family’s favorite foods?

You can calculate the “water footprint” of your favorite foods.

You can calculate the “water footprint” of your favorite foods.

After doing a little research, I found that there’s a lot of water hidden in my go-to chicken stew recipe: the chicken alone – about 2 lbs. of it – requires around 1,100 gallons of water to produce. That’s enough water to fill about 25 bathtubs! If my famous beef stew were on the menu, the same amount of beef requires almost quadruple the amount of water – 91 bathtubs’ worth. And believe it or not, those Valentine’s Day chocolates have the largest water footprint on the menu: it takes a whopping 454 gallons of water to produce a standard-sized (100g) chocolate bar. According to EPA’s WaterSense program, that’s more water than an average American family of four uses in one day.

Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the water footprint of your favorite meals. Buying only what you need for your recipes reduces potential food waste, and minimizes the waste of everything that went into producing the food, including water!

You can also look for foods that are locally-grown. Lower transportation needs for local food translate into a smaller environmental footprint overall. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and urban gardens are great ways to support your community and get healthy, local foods. EPA is a partner in the Local Foods, Local Places program which helps communities like Allentown, Pennsylvania, Crisfield, Maryland, and Williamson, West Virginia stimulate economic development through local food enterprises.

With simple steps, you can be a water-savvy home chef – and still make mouths water at the dinner table.

About the author: Dr. Jennie Saxe joined EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region in 2003 and works in the Water Protection Division on sustainability programs.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Greening the Federal Purchasing Machine – Leading By Example

By Jim Jones

Did you know that the Federal government is the single largest consumer in the world, spending close to $500 billion each year on a wide variety of products and services?

And did you know that in March the President issued an Executive Order directing federal agencies to meet a goal of buying 100% environmentally preferable products and services? This can make a big difference in reducing our environmental footprint. It can also spur consumers and the private sector to use and demand safer and greener products.

Of course the big challenge for federal agencies is how to sort through the hundreds of products with private labels that claim to be safe or environmentally friendly.

Now it just got easier for federal agencies.

First, the Executive Order directs feds to buy products identified by EPA’s Safer Choice, EnergyStar, WaterSense, SNAP, and SmartWay programs, USDA’s BioPreferred, and DOE’s FEMP programs to meet their needs.

Second, we are evaluating current private eco-labels to help federal buyers sort through which ones are the most credible and environmentally-preferable. We are using our draft Guidelines for Environmental Performance to do this pilot. We’re focusing on standards and ecolabels for 1) furniture; 2) flooring; and 3) paints and coatings. The results will help us with evaluations of other product categories in the future. For more information on our pilot, see http://www.resolv.org/site-guidelines/.

And third, in the meantime, we’ve released interim recommendations of standards and ecolabels to help federal buyers green their purchases. These include standards and ecolabels for construction, adhesives, flooring, insulation, paint, wood, custodial products, electronics, grounds/landscaping materials, office supplies, operations, fleets, shipping and a whole host of other products and services. These sustainability standards and eco-labels have been researched and verified by GSA and DOE, and feds can use them to ensure their purchases perform well and are readily available in the market. So if you need paper towels, there are recycled content requirements, as well as a recommended private label for paper products. We plan to regularly update these recommendations as we implement our Guidelines for non-governmental ecolabels and standards.

All of these efforts will help reduce our environmental footprint, support manufacturers that produce environmentally preferable products, and stimulate supply of greener products and services across the globe. By purchasing environmentally preferable products and services, federal agencies are leading by example, and protecting our health and the environment — for generations to come.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Don’t be SCARED to save water and energy with WaterSense!

by Kimberly Scharl

halloween Water SenseIs Halloween on your mind this week?  It’s okay to be scared at the thought of ghosts and goblins running around, but a truly frightful sight is your electric bill driven higher by wasteful water use.

October is National Energy Action Month, and even though you may not realize it, it takes a lot of energy to provide clean water.  Energy is needed to move every gallon of water you use in your home, office, or school from its source to a treatment plant, and through water pipes to your house.  The work doesn’t stop there!  If you need hot water, it takes energy to warm it up before it hits the tap.

Water may seem like an inexpensive resource, but the more water you use, the more energy you use, too.  That’s why it’s so important to conserve water and why we encourage you to “shower better” during the month of October and all-year-round!

Showering is one of the leading ways Americans use water in the home, accounting for nearly 17% of indoor water use.  You can shower better by replacing your old showerhead with a WaterSense labeled model that saves water, energy and money while performing as well as a standard model.  By replacing just one showerhead with a WaterSense labeled model, EPA estimates the average family can save 2,900 gallons of water, enough electricity to power a home for 13 days, and more than $70 in energy and water costs every year.

October is also  Children’s Health Month and a great time to talk to your kids about becoming “green goblins” by conserving water.  Check out WaterSense for kids for games and activities to get them in on the water-saving action.  You can search for WaterSense-labeled products – including showerheads – and more on EPA’s WaterSense website. Shower better with WaterSense and your water use can be one less thing to be scared of this Halloween!

 

About the Author: Kimberly Scharl joined EPA in 2010, after moving to the mid-Atlantic region from Mississippi. She is a financial analyst and project officer in the Office of Infrastructure and Assistance, and is the regional liaison for the WaterSense Program. Kim enjoys bowling and spending time with her family.

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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EPA WaterSense: Helping New York City Save Water

By Alex Peck

Water fountains at Fort Green Park in Brooklyn, NY.

Water fountains at Fort Green Park in Brooklyn, NY.

Last summer, while walking through Fort Greene Park on a beautiful day, I noticed a sign posted next to an outdoor fountain describing how New York City had made it more water efficient. The fountain used to run continuously 24 hours a day. Now, thanks in part to the EPA’s recommendations, New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has retrofitted the sprinklers with timer buttons, which, when pressed, allow the sprinkler to operate for two minute intervals. This small effort helps New York City save about 10,000 gallons of water per day!

EPA is helping NYC become more efficient.

EPA is helping NYC become more efficient.

This water conservation measure, along with others that the DEP has made over the last four years, came about through the help of Mr. Lorne LaMonica, a Senior Scientist with EPA in the Pollution Prevention and Climate Change Section. For two years, Mr. LaMonica participated in New York City’s Green Code Task Force and was instrumental in incorporating the EPA WaterSense Program specifications into the NYC Code. The retrofitting of the fountain in Fort Greene Park is just one of the many water conservation measures implemented.

This photo shows the on/off button for the sprinkler in Fort Greene Park. This one button helps NYC save 10,000 gallons of water a day.

This photo shows the on/off button for the sprinkler in Fort Greene Park. This one button helps NYC save 10,000 gallons of water a day.

As a result of Lorne’s efforts, New York City has become a strong proponent of using EPA WaterSense specifications in new construction and retrofits. The city reported to EPA that in 2013, with the assistance of our WaterSense recommendations, it retrofitted 13 schools with water-efficient urinals, toilets, and faucets. As a result of installing these water-saving fixtures, these schools conserved 49,000,000 gallons of water, reduced 114 metric tons of carbon equivalent (greenhouse gases) and saved $143,000 in water utility costs! In 2014, DEP retrofitted an additional 10 schools and the water saving numbers were tremendous: 92,000,000 gallons of water saved, 211 metric tons of carbon equivalent saved, and a savings of $266,800 in water utility costs. These retrofit projects are expected to continue for years through hundreds of schools throughout the city.

To find out more about the EPA’s WaterSense program and how it’s helping communities throughout the United States to save water, visit: http://www.epa.gov/watersense/.

About the Author: Alex Peck is an Environmental Protection Specialist in EPA Region 2’s Pollution Prevention and Climate Change Section.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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#EarthDayEveryday

This Earth Day, let’s commit ourselves, our families, and our communities to work toward a brighter environmental future. I’ll be taking part in a service learning project tomorrow with Washington, DC’s Earth Conservation Corps to help clean up the Anacostia River, and I encourage you to serve at an Earth Day event in your community.

But there’s no need to wait until Earth Day—there’s a lot we can do every day to help protect the environment and the climate, while keeping our families healthy and saving money.

Here are just a few ideas:

Reduce food waste. The average family throws away $1,600 a year on wasted food, and rotting food in landfills releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. This toolkit can help your family save money and reduce their climate impact with some basic planning and organizing. And by composting food scraps, you can help feed the soil and keep your plants and gardens healthy.

Look for EPA labels when you shop. EPA’s Energy Star, WaterSense, and Safer Choice labels help Americans choose products that save them money, reduce energy and water use, and keep their homes safer from harmful chemicals. Products that carry these labels are backed by trusted EPA science.

 

Wash your clothes in cold water. 90 percent of your washing machine’s energy goes toward heating water, while just 10 percent goes toward running the motor. Consider switching to cold water—along with cold-water detergent—and save your family money on your electric bill.

 

Make your home more energy efficient. EPA’s ENERGY STAR program goes beyond labeling energy efficient products. Our new Home Advisor tool can help you create a prioritized list of energy efficient home improvement projects tailored specifically to your home.

 

 

Learn how to fix water leaks. The average family loses over 10,000 gallons of water each year to leaks. This guide will show you how to find and fix leaks in your home so you can conserve water and save on your water bill.

 

 

 

E-cycle your electronic waste. Spring is a great time to clean and de-clutter. If you’re looking to finally get rid of that old TV, computer or mobile device, this guide can help you find safe ways to recycle it in your state.

 

 

 

Green your commute. To get exercise and limit your carbon footprint, walk, bike, or take public transportation whenever you can. Leaving your car at home just 2 days a week can prevent 2 tons of carbon pollution every year.

When you drive, look for gas containing biofuel to help reduce carbon pollution from your vehicle. To maximize gas mileage, get regular tune-ups, and keep your tires fully inflated. And if you’re in the market for a new car, consider making your next vehicle a fuel-efficient, low greenhouse-gas model and save money on fuel.

EPA is taking national action to fight climate change and protect the environment, but we can all take small steps to keep our families healthy, make our homes safer, and save money. When we do, we help protect the one planet we’ve got.

What will you do? Let us know at #EarthDayEveryday

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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